Scandalize is to shockingly offend a person’s moral sensibility.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of a man scandalizing himself when he looks at a woman for the purpose of desiring her for adultery, for in doing so he has already committed adultery in his heart, Matthew 5:28. The kingdom of the heavens is what Jesus is preaching. After the Messiah comes, is cut off, the Temple is desecrated by Satan, and the Messiah returns in glory, He sets up a Kingdom that will last for 1000 years, Daniel 9:24-27. In setting up this kingdom, God makes a new covenant with Israel in which He writes His law within their heart, Jeremiah 31:33. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is giving instructions concerning the rules of this kingdom, not for today. This man scandalizes himself because he intentionally violated the law of God that is written in his heart by acting upon a thought to desire another woman by glancing at her for this purpose. Unlike under the Mosaic Law where the act of adultery, which is a sin, would be punished, he is held liable for scandalizing himself by using his members in a way that is contrary to what he knows is right even though the physical act of adultery has not been committed, for sin and scandalizing are not the same thing. This is not referring to today, for we are in a period of time in which we must learn the law of God, which for the Church is to live by grace through faith. Therefore, such desires, although we may strongly desire not to have them, do not scandalize us, for we expect to have to deal with them. However, when righteousness rules upon this earth, Satan is bound, and the world system is destroyed, these types of thoughts will not enter a man’s mind unless he deliberately permits them in an act of direct defiance to God. Therefore, Jesus informs the Jew that if a man scandalizes himself, he is to remove the offending body part, for all that scandalize and do lawlessness (sin), will be cast directly into the lake of fire, Matthew 13:41. This means, no Hades or Great White Throne, but immediate and permanent judgment.
When it comes to being scandalized today within the Church, this type of shock typically involves food and drink. Under the Mosaic law, if a Jew ate certain things, they would defile him and therefore he would not be permitted to enter the Temple until he was cleansed. Therefore, being now able to eat anything under the new covenant could cause a conscience issue with a person who came out from under the Law and held to its strict dietary requirements. As the gospel message spread into the Gentile nations, another issue arose relating to their idolatry. For those coming out of idolatry, eating something that has been offered to an idol could scandalize them because they still perceive it as participating in the sacrifice. These types of issues were used by false teachers to gain and manipulate followers through food and drink so that even today there are many Christians who can be scandalized by what a person eats or drinks. Therefore, although today food does not impact our relationship with God, if a fellow Christian is scandalized by food or drink, we are to refrain from that for their sake, Romans 14:21. An example of how a Christian can be scandalized today is seen in the consumption of alcohol. Some believe it is so vile that to even permit it to touch your lips is sinful; where the more mature understand that the use of alcohol is not restricted to anything more than not being drunk, for that is a work of the flesh and does not permit the mind to focus on things related to salvation, Ephesians 5:18. However, the one who is mature, is not to use his freedom in a way that scandalizes one who is weak, just as the weak are not to judge the mature; rather, we are to be settled in our minds concerning what we eat and drink and do it unto the Lord, 1 Corinthians 10:31.
False teachers serve their own belly, causing division and scandal within the local assembly, for they do not abide by the doctrine that we received from our Lord. It is through flattering speech that they deceive the hearts of the innocent, Romans 16:17-20. This is especially true when it comes to the gospel for salvation, for the message of Christ crucified and raised on the third day scandalizes the Jews and is foolishness to the Gentiles, 1 Corinthians 1:23. However, a Christian that is walking in the light, expresses his love for God by loving the brethren and therefore there will be no cause for scandalizing within him, 1 John 2:10.
Scandalizing involves someone doing something that is so shockingly immoral that it highly offends those who see it; however, one who has trained their mind and conscience based upon lies will be scandalized by the truth. When it comes to a fellow believer, those of us who are strong are not to allow our freedom to scandalize the weaker in the faith, for in doing so we will not be expressing love towards them. However, when it comes to speaking the truth concerning the gospel for salvation, those who perish will always be scandalized by the death of Christ for sins, and His resurrection three days later, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Therefore, we are to speak the truth with kindness and grace, even when the truth highly offends those around us, for in learning the way things really are, perhaps they will come to their senses and turn their minds unto the living hope provided to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.